[Tweeters] My birding adventures for Grant County, Washington in 2018

matt yawney myawney at hotmail.com
Thu Jan 3 20:05:47 PST 2019

2018 Grant County Big Year

https://flic.kr/s/aHsmwjinqz A few low quality photos can be found here.

In 2012 I did a Grant County big year and decided that I would probably not do that again. During the last few months of 2012 birding felt more like a job, defeating much of the purpose of birding for me. In 2018 I challenged myself to see if I could break 100 species each month for the county, and by the time summer hit I was starting to think that I could break my 2012 record of 240 species with a little effort. So I transitioned into a big year although committed to myself that I wouldn’t let it stress me out. I ended 2018 with 244 species documented in Grant County. Here are some of the highlights:

Jan 1: Gray-crowned Rosy FInch- I’ve found this one difficult in our county but had found a consistent location in Northrup Canyon in the end of 2017.

Jan 1: Pine Grosbeak- was in Northrup Canyon

Jan 2: Anna’s Hummingbird- This species overwintered for the first time in 2017-2018, right at my house. There were two here in Dec 2018.

Jan 6: Purple FInch- these were atypically common in a couple of locations in Grant County all last winter.

Feb 3: American Dipper- interesting because I found this one at Northrup Canyon, which always seemed possible to me but was a first record for this location. I also saw one in December at Grand Coulee Dam which is the more likely place and time to find this species in Grant.

Feb 10: Western Screech Owl: I’ve found this species to be incredibly difficult to find in our county, but last year I really got into birding at night during the winter months and had some really neat experiences with that routine. One of these nocturnal adventures lead me to finding a calling Screech Owl at Crescent Bar. This was doubly exciting because I was specifically looking for this species during this trip. Thanks for your ebird record which guided me in choosing a habitat.

Feb 11: Barn Swallow- intersting due to time of arrival. Found at the Rocky Ford fish hatchery (our wintering sora spot). Poor guy. Pretty sure it died.

Feb 15: Glaucous Gull- Moses Lake. I haven’t seen this species for several years in Grant, so it was a lucky find this winter.

March 29: Harris’s Sparrow: At Gloyd Seeps Wetland. This species seemed to be around a lot last winter. I noticed records from all over the state. I had seen this species for the first time in Grant County in late 2017 (after nearly 10 years of birding here), and ended up seeing it 3 times from late 2017-March 2018 (all at completely diffeerent locations)- so I think it was just a good year for Harris’s Sparrow.

March 29: Swamp Sparrow: This was a big moment for me, just minutes after seeing that Harris’s Sparrow I saw a distinctly unfamiliar sparrow that turned out to be a Swamp Sparrow. To have two such challenging species found so close together in time and space blew my mind! Gloyd Seeps…. what an amazing spot. We also had an overwintering Common Yellowthroat at this location in 2018.

May 6: Whimbrel- At Crescent Bar hanging with some Curlews. County Lifer.

May 11: Lewis’s Woodpecker and White-faced Ibis- at Potholes State Park. Both of these are quite difficult to find in the county.

May 18: Black Swift- In Patrick Park, Ephrata. In mid to late May I have found that this species will fly right past my home which is by Patrick Park in Ephrata, located along our major irrigation canal. It’s best to look during or shortly after a rainstorm (which is rare). So I’ve made a habit of checking whenever these condition arise. They have always been making their way north and typically there is less than a minute to observe. I’ve only photographed this species once making its flyby but I see them almost every year. I did get a glimpse of one this year and wasn’t 100% convinced until I closely obeserved white-throated swifts shortly after this sighting.

May 22: Least Flycatcher- At Gloyd Seeps Wetland. I had only observed this species once before in our county (and only heard at that), so I was feeling pretty lucky when I got an audio recording and photos of this guy.

May 24: Bay-breasted Warbler (species 209)- In Lion’s Park Ephrata. I was driving by with the windows down and heard a very high pitched warbler call and instantly knew it was not from here. The bird was calling like mad so it was easy to find. This was a major highlight for the year and probably marks about when I started thinking that my old big year record was in grasp.

May 25: Ferruginous Hawk- I hadn’t seen this species in Grant County since my last big year in 2012, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. Thanks to Ed Pullen for finding this one.

May 30: B&W Warbler- At Lee Williams Chestnut Farm. Lee had called me the day before to tell me he had seen an unfamiliar colorful bird on his property. I went out and couldn’t find what he had described but decided that I needed to come back to this location. The next morning I came by before work and pulled out a B&W Warbler. Sweet!

August 18: Northern Waterthrush- At Northrup Canyon. This one was fun. I’ve noticed this species has generally been found in mid to late August in the Columbia Basin so I’ve always had it in mind during this time of year, but had never been lucky enough to find one. I was near a stream in Northrup Canyon and there was a lot of warbler activity. I thought that it seemed like a good spot for Waterthrush, so I played a recording and guess what popped up? Interestingly I came across another one at Steamboat Rock on Sept 22. Funny how birding is like that.

August 25: Black Tern- It seems like this should be an easy species for Grant but I always struggle very much to find it. Following some prior reports I took a kayak out on Potholes Reservoir and found a first year flying about.

August 29: Vaux’s Swift- Patrick Park. Here’s another species that I often struggle with, but once I saw this one I saw again 2 more times.

August 31: Parasitic Jaeger- Potholes. Stayed for 2-3 weeks.

Sept 5: Black-throated Gray Warbler- Potholes State Park- typically tough to find but 2 came through this year, both at this location.

Sept 5: Blackpoll Warbler- Potholes State Park: I seem to have a lot of luck with this species. My fourth record for Grant.

Sept 5: Chestnut-sided Warbler- what a day! 3 rare warblers all seen within 30 minutes at Potholes.

Sept 6: Magnolia Warbler- Sept 5 had been so good at Potholes State Park that I knew where I was going on Sept 6. I was able to come up with one more rare warbler at Potholes State Park. This one was amazingly skulky and it took 30 minute before I saw it for long enough to get a photograph.

Sept 10: American Golden Plover- found at Perch Point by a group of birders

Sept 12: Sabine’s Gull- this species has been pretty consistent in September at Soap Lake, although this year was there very briefly this year, so I was lucky to come across it.

Sept 14: Tennessee Warbler- At Lee Williams Chestnut Farm. What an amazing year for warblers!

Sept 22: Clay-colored Sparrow- Northrup Canyon. Found later in the year than I expected. Iterestingly I found this one at the exact location that I had found this species about 3 years prior (although this one was about 2 weeks later in Sept)

Oct 4: Red Phalarope- At Soap Lake. I’ve been combing through RN Phalaropes looking for this one for years. This guy was all by itself. A county lifer.

Big Misses:

Ross’s Goose- We had massive flocks of Snow Geese last winter and I was unable to pull out a Ross’s. There was one sighting that I am aware of in 2018 but I was unable to find it.

All 3 scoters- some years I see all 3 scoters in the county so I can’t believe that I missed all 3 of them.

Pacific Loon- usually not too hard to get.

Greater Sage-grouse- I have a spot that I have seen them in once before and I felt like if I hiked through enough times I would pull one out and I came up empty after several visits.

Barred Owl- I have a friend that has a Barred Owl visit her yard every year around Christmas. It did show up this year and I was unable to see it. One of these days….

Red-naped Sapsucker- possibly my first year missing this species, so totally crazy that I missed it. I typically only see it once or twice a year but I always manage to see one without looking too hard.

Ash-throated Flycatcher- One was reported and I was unable to find it.

Stellar’s Jay- I have yet to see this species in the county. A species that other birders regularly find. My nemesis bird for now.

Bushtit- For several years I was able to find this species at least once a year with modest effort. We had a hard winter in 2016-2017 and that seems to be when they disappeared. I haven’t been able to locate one since March 2016.

I think one of the most exceptional parts of this year for me was the sheer number of rare warblers that I was able to discover. It was quite bizarre but very cool.

For the last 3 months of the year my birding of the county slowed quite a bit. I was a little burned out on birding Grant and was pretty committed to only going birding if it was good for me and my family. I didn’t want it to be a chore, and that worked really well for me. I did have time to check for scoters, Snowy Owl, Gyrfalcon, Pacific Loon and didn’t have any luck with them, but really didn’t mind. When I was birding I was just happy to be out there. I also had birding trips to the Olympic Peninsula and Ecuador in the Fall so I put most of my birding attention towards that. Anyway, it was a pretty fun year for birding. I think I’ll take it quite a bit easier this year however as far as the birding goes.

Good birding to you all, and thanks for all of your ebird contributions for the Columbia Basin which have been very helpful towards my own birding endeavors.

Matt Yawney

Ephrata, WA

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